________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 13 . . . . February 16, 2007



Elisa Amado. Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi, 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-614-5.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Carolyn Crippen.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reader Copy.

This subtle children’s story packs a gentle punch.

     Told through the eyes of a small child, in the first person, this poignant story introduces young readers to the realities of poverty. Margarita is a young girl, about 4-5 years of age. The location of the story is not identified specifically, but author Elisa Amado is a Guatemalan who provides clues to the location through the names of people, food, language, running barefoot in the grass; and the volcano, Volcan de Fuego. Margarita’s carefree, privileged world includes a house with a library, a garden tended by a groundskeeper named Timoteo, her dog Clementina, toys, and a tricycle. 

I run over to the pine tree and climb up the trunk until I reach my favourite branch. There is a little spot of gum from the tree on my blouse. It won’t come off when it is washed so I will probably have a stain on my blouse forever, but I don’t care.

     Margarita is physically protected from the outside world by a tall, thick, hedge which surrounds her home and garden. The hedge also provides a hiding place in a hole in the greenery for Margarita and her tricycle. The tall pine tree in the garden is Margarita’s favourite place; she climbs up into the branches of the pine tree and peers over the hedge into another world. Each day, she can see the shacks where her friends, Rosario, Chepe, and Juanita, live with their mother, who makes the tortillas daily for Margarita’s family. 

     Although Margarita’s mother cautions her not to leave her tricycle outside, Margarita actually leaves it near the hole in the hedge. From her tree branch, Margarita feels pangs of conscience when she witnesses Rosario and Chepe pulling her tricycle through the hedge toward them and hiding the trike in their yard.

My stomach feels funny. I don’t say anything. My mother always tells me not to leave my toys outside.

     With childlike innocence, she rationalizes the loss of her tricycle in the story she tells her mother:

“My tricycle got run over by a big black car,” I say. “Then some men with guns took it away with them. They almost ran over Clementina. I don’t care because I’m too old for a trike now, anyway.”

     The illustrations on each page are quiet and matter-of-fact; they support a strong message conveyed in the storybook- a loss of innocence, perceptions of the poor, and childhood fears.  This book provides a gateway for conversation with youngsters around a serious issue in our world - the gap between the rich and the poor.

Highly Recommended.

Carolyn Crippen is the Assistant Dean of the Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Education (PBDE) at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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